Welcome back, and thanks again for joining me as I take a look at The Mist Episode 4: Pequod.
"Kevin and the group find their way to a local church where several others have found sanctuary. Upon their arrival, police chief Connor Heisel locks up Mia, Bryan and Kevin in the basement to prevent them from stirring up the people seeking refuge there. Back at the mall, high school football superstar Jay Heisel confronts Alex about her allegations against him."
But first a quick public service announcement: I'm a huge fan of both Stephen King's work and the 2007 Thomas Jane movie, but since this is a "based on…", I'll be reviewing the television series based on its own merits instead of through comparisons. A lot of details are going to get spoiled, so please keep that in mind as you read this. I'll try to put up some kind of "subtle reminder" when the spoilage is about to start.
As always, my rating system is based on a highly scientific 1-9 (with half-increments) John Cusack scale, with a 10 "Golden Cusack" score reserved only for incredibly rare and special circumstances. Why John Cusack? Because he's my pop-culture spirit animal. And he made High Fidelity. And Grosse Pointe Blank. And Better Off Dead. And One Crazy Summer. There's more, if you're interested, but maybe we should move on.
So here's what I knew about Pequod going into the screening:
"Kevin, Mia, Bryan and Adrian leave the sanctity of the church and arrive at an abandoned gas station where they try to reason with a father amid fears of the whereabouts of his own child. At the mall, Alex comes face to face with the mist."
I'm going to be completely honest. I had pretty much already written the opening to this week's review of The Mist immediately after last week's posted…and I hadn't even seen this week's episode yet. That's how bad the past two weeks were; and even though I was still holding steadfast to my "not before six" mantra, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't getting ready to shuffle off to Buffalo.
I mean, American Gods is coming back for a second season at some point, and I still have Preacher, right? And if we're being really honest? We both know that a ton of great ideas for shows die on the vine as they try to make that transition from "great idea" to "great show." It looked like The Mist was going to be one of those…but then again, maybe not.
I really, really enjoyed this week's episode, and not from the standpoint of the bar being set so low over the past two weeks that anything short of a badly focused snuff film would be considered Breaking Bad.
Even though I'll be touching upon a number of specifics when I go over the episode's "pros/cons," I'm impressed by the overall quality shift for the good that I noticed on a number of levels. The actors showed a greater comfort with their characters, making them more believable. Plots are beginning to come into focus, with some slight surprises along the way. The writers made some surprising decisions, most of which I agree with and could make for some interesting future scenarios.
Was it perfect? No, not by a long shot. If that were the case, I wouldn't be able to do a "pro/con" list. There are a few things that still had me either cringing or two-hand palming my face in disbelief — including the one actor/character who's been draining the intensity and emotion out of every scene they've been in so far.
Pro: Kevin (Morgan Spector) showed us that he finally sent away for the "Rick Grimes leadership handbook" with less whining and more decision-making. Giving Mia (Danica Curcic) the gun to get them into the car and then immediately taking it back from her while she's distracted proves that he's actually starting to toughen up.
Pro: "If I'm looking to get date-raped, I'll invite you into the conversation." Zoe (Holly Deveaux) to Jay (Luke Cosgrove), which finally showed a poisonously honest response to a guy accused of rape walking around a mall and trying to act like everything's normal.
Pro: "I'm not scared because I'm losing my faith. I'm scared because it's stronger than ever." Father Romanov (Dan Butler) is a man who is diving deep into his personal faith to free him from the fear and doubt creeping into his soul, but deep down, his faith his weak. He needs everyone around him to believe as he does…any semblance of doubt or questioning will not do. Butler's performance shows us a man who thinks he's doing right for the right reasons, but his patience and actions will be tested by Mrs. Raven (Frances Conroy), who's looking to nature and the town's past for answers.
Pro/Con: Clay (Teagle F. Bougere) is an interesting character whom I would like to see more from as the season continues or into a possible second season, mainly because Bougere's performance rings of genuine pain and sincerity. Having said that, I can't help but feel like the exchanges between Clay and Kevin are the writers trying to force-feed a Rick/Morgan-The Walking Dead dynamic on us. Again, another example of quality acting helping gloss over the occasional cliché.
Pro: "I don't think they'll rob a bank." Mrs. Raven to Sheriff Connor (Darren Pettie), another dynamic with nice long-term potential. Connor is more open-minded than he lets on, but feels it's his obligation to maintain order and structure. In Mrs. Raven, he sees someone who actually takes the time to talk to him and ask him what he thinks; and that helps her earn an ally in him. Mrs. Raven's willingness to keep digging for answers is also an attribute that Connor finds it easy to gravitate to, and I could see him becoming a surrogate son/protector to Mrs. Raven moving forward.
Con: I'm sorry, but I think they need to kill off Eve (Alyssa Sutherland). I don't say that lightly — every bit of the character, as well as Sutherland's performance, seems forced and out of place. The scene where she's explaining why her marriage with Kevin is so strained should've been a defining moment for both the character and the actor, but at no point did I ever feel a connection. It came across both cold and flat, and didn't do much at all to advance the family's storyline.
Pro: The idea of "The Black Spring" of 1860, where 14 people died due to nature-related incidences, is a very interesting concept to introduce and helps broaden the mystery behind the mist's origins and true purpose.
Pro: I could watch Butler and Conroy have a conversation on the subway — that's how impressive they are in their scenes together. Father Romanov and Mrs. Raven are two forces of faith that are heading for an inevitable butting-of-the-heads for control of the flock. Father Romanov's desperate need to "save" Mrs. Raven by killing a spider screams his desperate need for understanding and control. But even as he yells and flails his arms in his selfish need to save "the fallen" around him so that he can have his own faith reaffirmed, Father Romanov is blind to the fact that he's quietly pushing the others to her cause. And power corrupts equally.
Con: Look…I get it. You needed a reason to take most of the vehicles out of play, but not all of them. And again, Bougere's performance as Clay definitely helps sell the point. But c'mon, really? It's a specialized "survivalist" vehicle, so it just so happened to escape the effects of the mist because it's not heavily computerized? Hmm…
Con: The blurred camerawork used as Alex (Gus Birney) and Lila (Lola Flanery) enter into the bookstore was obnoxiously unnecessary and gave me a huge headache. Not cool.
Pro: The contrast of Alex reading The Owl Who Said What to Lila with Vic (Erik Knudsen) and Ted (Jonathan Malen) attempting to bring back the bodies in the shopping cart from outside was well done and helped create a nice moment of tension.
Pro: Holy $@%#. They killed Lila. Didn't see that coming. Why did I put this as a "pro"? It's not because I'm a sick bastard, but because I believe that if a show's willing to go that route, then they're willing to keep all storyline options on the table. For me, that's a good sign for the series in the long term.
Pro: We got a chance to see more of a formalized "presence" within the mist, which increased its terror factor tenfold. Between Alex being left alone after confronting the mist directly and Conner's words that the mist "knew" him, we're starting to see that the mist appears to derive its power from its victims themselves. I'm wondering if the mist doesn't work as some kind of "fear parasite," and that Alex's currently numb emotional state actually saved her life.
Pro: "Mother Earth is never wrong. She knows what she is doing." Mrs. Raven, proving to Father Romanov and Connor that you can't destroy her "god" (nature), and that her faith is being received and appreciated. In the battle for the hearts and minds of those in the church, it's coming down to whose faith best represents life and whose faith represents death. Right now? With her dead spider "resurrected" as a legion of baby spiders? Advantage goes to Mrs. Raven.
Pro: I'm glad they decided to bleep out Vic's "fucks" instead of trying to go with a softer word. This guy's just been voted out of the mall and is now most likely being sent to his death. I don't know about you, but I know I'm probably going to be dropping some choice words to anyone who'll listen before I go. Not a huge decision, but one that made the scene better.
Pro: "You're right. Alex is a liar." Shelley (Alexandra Ordolis) to Jay, a nicely ominous cliffhanger to end the episode on. We've got an angry, grieving mother looking for answers…particularly, why did Alex live while Lila died? Not a good omen for any of The Copeland Family currently camping out in that mall. And what about Jay? If "public safety" is a concern, how long will it be before Jay's considered a threat the others don't want to deal with?
Conclusion: A damn fine week that gets the ship back on course and moving forward. I really hope they can build off of the quality of this episode, because it's definitely renewed my hope in the direction of the series.
Pequod gets 7 Cusacks!
Come back and share some time with me next week when I look at The Mist's fifth episode, The Waiting Room:
"Kevin performs dangerous surgery on his brother in a mist infected area of the hospital."